Racial Justice Advocates: Living our Mission

At our Annual Meeting on June 9th the FPL Racial Justice Advocates (RJA) will describe a church-wide plan for engaging our congregation in deeper racial justice dialogue, learning and action in the coming church year. This work directly addresses the Values, Mission and Vision statements that have come from us as a congregation through the work of the Transition Team and strongly reflect our church’s call to ministry to “affirm each person’s dignity.”

Why now?
This excerpt from our Values, Mission and Vision shows that we have agreed that social justice, human dignity and preserving the living earth are First Parish core values. In the context of distressing increases in violence toward People of Color within the last year, it is incumbent upon all of us to work toward understanding, transparency and accountability as we explore issues of social justice in our immediate and broader communities.

Moreover, our church has a long history of supporting social, racial and environmental justice. In 1965 our minister, Charles Styron, with several FPL parishioners were in Selma to support the Black community protesting for equal voting rights. Many members of our church have devoted themselves to issues such as school integration, METCO, fair housing, homelessness, even extending their outreach to the oppressed people of Haiti and Tanzania. In just the past few years racial justice has become even more central in the activities of various committees, such as Youth Programs, Outreach, FLP Green, and Racial Justice Advocates.

In addition, the Town of Lincoln, Lincoln Library, Council On Aging, and elementary and high schools are all instituting programs and training for students, families, and staff. Many in our congregation have participated in the WIDE training on institutional racism offered here in Lincoln recently. This is the time for FPL to increase our engagement as a congregation in this challenging work. Our two denominations, UCC and UUA, both strongly encourage their congregations to undertake this work and are providing curricula and other guides.

Programs and Offerings
At this point in the FPL racial justice journey, we are proposing a varied approach based on programs already in use by UUA and UCC churches.  Some possibilities to consider:

  • studying our local history related to racial injustice
  • holding conversations with the guidance of skilled facilitators to understand our personal relationship to race in light of our values, mission, vision and our Call to Ministry
  • increasing our understanding of racial issues with book and film discussions
  • offering young families, their children and adolescents, the support they are looking for in creating a racially just world
  • joining with other organizations/institutions in Lincoln in increasing inclusion, diversity, and equity
  • challenging ourselves to act to strengthen social and racial justice

In all of our work together there will be a commitment to open, respectful dialogue in light of the sometimes sensitive and difficult conversations that can develop.

Planning Process 
As a first step, the Racial Justice Advocates members met with representatives from Outreach, YPC, Deacons and Parish Committee, as well as Rev. Jenny to discuss the plan.  Attendees offered valuable ideas and their support.

Second, the plan considered by this group was presented to the Parish Committee which committed budgetary support.

Third, on June 3 at 7:00p.m., in advance of the Annual Meeting, RJA will host an informal discussion of this proposal, inviting all members of the congregation to contribute ideas, ask questions, and participate in shaping its activities.

Fourth, a Steering Committee drawing broadly from across the congregation’s groups and committees will be established over the summer to participate in planning and implementation.

Next steps 
The next steps in this planning will involve the First Parish as a community. The “we” in this work is all of us, the congregation.

  • June 3, 7pm: Brainstorming session
  • June 9, 7pm: Presentation at Annual Meeting
  • Summer 2021:
    • Creation of Steering Committee
    • The first offering for congregational participation is our summer read, two books by James Baldwin: The Fire Next Time, and Go Tell It On the Mountain.

In the fall there will be discussions of the books and a related film.

  • Early Fall: Community Discussion of specific programs and ways to implement them throughout the year.

We, the community of First Parish in Lincoln, have an opportunity to embark on a transformative venture together. We hope that each of us, in whatever way we can, will choose to join this spiritual and meaningful journey.